ESJF Concludes Work on First EU Pilot Project

ESJF are pleased to announce that work has come to an end on our first EU-funded Pilot Project: Protecting Jewish Cemeteries: A full mapping process with research and monitoring and individual costed proposals for protection.

The project, which began in December 2018, was set up with the goal of performing ground and drone surveys of 1,500 Jewish cemeteries across 5 European countries (Greece, Lithuania, Moldova, Slovakia, and Ukraine), to create a comprehensive database of Jewish cemeteries in Europe, as well as promoting cooperation with local stakeholders and carrying out educational events in order to spread awareness of Jewish cemeteries as a part of our shared, European heritage.

Across the 18 months of the project, our teams visited 1,872 individual sites, yielding a total of 1,424 surveys. Through our use of UAV photography, we were also able to generate 3D models of 625 cemetery sites, which can be used by architects to produce plans for future fencing measures. Meanwhile, our educational programme, consisting of secondary school outreach, teacher training, and higher education events, has stoked a newfound interest in Jewish heritage among educators and students alike across our project countries.

Over the course of the project, we have also gathered significant insights into Jewish heritage education, UAV technology, and heritage tourism. We are currently working to gather these best practices into a series of handbooks, co-written with various experts from across these diverse fields, which we will publish to coincide with the delivery of the final project report in August. It is our hope that these will serve as a valuable resource to local partners and stakeholders, allowing them to build upon the work carried out by ESJF in the framework of the Pilot Project.

Unfortunately, due to restrictions imposed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were unable to visit 76 of the planned cemetery sites. However, with the help of local partners, our team were able to adapt to these new conditions, altering the education programme in the final months of the project to be carried out in an online format, carrying out webinars in Lithuania and an online UAV training course in Greece which have received universally positive feedback from participants.

We will have the opportunity to visit these missed sites as we now move our focus to our second EU-funded Pilot Project, in which we will be surveying a further 1,700 sites across 7 countries, continuing to raise awareness of the importance of Jewish cemeteries to Europe’s cultural heritage, and carrying out new educational programmes with our partners at Centropa and the Foundation for Jewish Heritage.

We would like to thank the European Commission for their generous funding and support, as well as the dozens of local partners, municipal authorities, and local communities whose efforts were instrumental in the success of this project.

Let’s keep this momentum going!